JW Jones – Live
Solid Blues Records
11 songs – 57 minutes
Any new release by JW Jones is cause for celebration. His latest release, his tenth, is a superb live showcase, recorded over two nights at La Basoche – Centre Cultural de Vieux Aylmer in Quebec by Zach Allen. Featuring 11 tracks that Jones has not previously released, Live acts as both an acknowledgment of Jones’ influences (all 11 songs are covers) and a glimpse into possible future directions for the band.
Opening with Robert Cray’s “A Memo (Nothin’ But Love)”, Jones and his talented cohorts swiftly move through the gears as they take on B.B. King’s “Need You So Bad” before laying down a killing version of Ben Harper’s “I Don’t Believe A Word You Say” (originally recorded with Charlie Musselwhite on harp) . Jones and crew take the song in a harder, rockier direction than the original, but the sharp dynamics of the breakdown in the middle of the song show a band utterly in tune with itself.
Both “I Don’t Believe A Word You Say” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moaning At Midnight” (which is played at a much faster clip than the original but still lasts nearly 10 minutes, thanks to a magnificently wild tribute to Jimi Hendrix in the breakdown) feature extended guitar solos, with Jones adopting a significantly more overdriven guitar sound than on his previous releases. He is a superb guitar player, happily switching from rock to blues to soul with ease. His extended jump blues solo at the start of B.B. King’s “Early Every Morning” is one of the highlights of the album, while his taut, restrained reading of Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright” is a powerful statement of ill-concealed fury. He also sings beautifully, often throwing in a nod to the mannerisms of the song’s original singer. On “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”, for example, his voice even has hints of Dylan’s nasal whine.
Jones’ band are equally impressive. Comprising Laura Greenberg on bass and vocals, Will Laurin on drums and vocals and Don Cummings on Hammond organ (who contributes a particularly nice solo on “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”), they follow and support their bandleader adroitly, providing that essential underpinning to Jones’ instrumental forays as he drives them through Albert King’s “You’re Going To Need Me”, The 5 Royales’ “Catch That Teardrop” (with great harmonies from Greenberg) and James Hunter’s “Way Down Inside” (curiously credited to “J. Huntsman” on CD, and which acts here as a showcase for Laurin’s powerhouse drumming).
The final track on the album, Deke Dickerson’s “I Might Not Come Home” mashes into a stunning 17-song medley featuring riffs from various classic guitar songs. The CD does list all 17 songs, but it is much more fun struggling to name each song from a single riff or two before it is replaced by another archetypal riff.
Live captures JW Jones in his element: great songs, superb playing and singing, raucous guitar, all dripping with deep soul. One of the best live blues albums released this year.